Pet owner disputes account in case of euthanized dogs

A local pet owner is disputing the account of the Department of Agriculture regarding an incident this week in which three dogs were seized and ultimately euthanized.

Mario Manning told the Cayman Compass Tuesday that his three dogs – Poppy, Karma and Dusty – were seized by the Department of Agriculture last Thursday for being unsecured on numerous occasions.

Mr. Manning said that he signed a paper allowing the dogs to be taken by the government agency, but he maintains that he did not understand that they could be euthanized as a result. And now that they have been put down, he said he wants an opportunity to say goodbye.

“They are property of the Crown,” said Mr. Manning of his dogs. “From a human aspect, I just want to say goodbye. I am pleading for them to hand them back to me so I can cremate them.”

Many elements of the story are not in dispute. The Department of Agriculture issued a press release Tuesday in which it detailed its account, and Mr. Manning agreed with many of its details.

The DoA said its senior animal welfare officer attended the Manning home last week along with community officers from the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service following numerous complaints about roaming and aggressive dogs that have chased nearby pedestrians and cyclists.

The officers found one dog unsecured and roaming freely when they arrived at the Manning home. They spoke to Mr. Manning and established that he had been warned on previous occasions about keeping his dogs secure, and they asked him to surrender his dogs to the DoA on this occasion.

Mr. Manning acknowledged that he had previously been spoken to about not allowing his dogs to be unsecured, and he said that he had complied with everything the DoA had asked him to do. But he disputed that his dogs had ever injured someone and said he’s never been told of such an incident.

“He told me it was my third strike,” said Mr. Manning of his interaction with the animal control officer. “I was told they were a nuisance and could be a threat to the public.”

Mr. Manning said Tuesday that he signed an Agreement for Surrendering Animals because he did not understand the repercussions that could ultimately be taken. Two of the dogs – Karma and Dusty – were pit bull mixes, a breed that is prohibited by the government of the Cayman Islands.

Mr. Manning and his girlfriend, Diane Gagne, had intended to arrange for the dogs’ adoption in Canada, and Mr. Manning said that he never would have signed the dogs over if he had known they could be euthanized. The DoA disputes that account and says Mr. Manning was informed at the time.

“In accordance with the law, dogs surrendered to the DoA that are of prohibited breeds are euthanized by the Licensed Veterinarian,” said the press release issued by the department on Tuesday afternoon. “The owner was informed of this when the dogs were surrendered.”

Mr. Manning said that is not true, and he maintains that he was told he would be informed before anything happened to the dogs. But he did not learn that the dogs would be euthanized, he said, until after the fact.

The Department of Agriculture provided a copy of the Agreement for Surrendering Animals to the Cayman Compass, and it clearly states above the signature line that “Prohibited breed types will be euthanized by the licensed veterinarian.”

Brian Crichlow, the acting director of the DoA, issued an official statement clarifying the government’s position.

“While this situation is unfortunate and we sympathize with the feelings of the former owner, we have followed Department of Agriculture policy and the law,” he said. “This is why it is especially important to follow the law when it comes to securing your animals.

“While we do work with members of the public as much as possible to educate and provide opportunities for them to come into compliance, as we did in this case, at a certain point education must be followed by enforcement. Unfortunately, it is often the animals that end up paying the price.”

Mr. Crichlow documented the previous times that Mr. Manning’s dogs came into contact with the DoA. The DoA seized the dogs and required home improvements to be made to the Manning household in October of last year, and the animals were released after the repairs were demonstrated.

DoA representatives also came into contact with the dogs in January of this year. The dogs were loose but evaded capture and ran back into Mr. Manning’s residence. In February, Mr. Crichlow said the DoA received reports from an elderly man who claimed to have been attacked by a dog at that address.

The DoA received further complaints about the dogs in February and observed all three dogs loose when they attended the area on March 7.

Mr. Crichlow said that all three dogs were of the prohibited breed variety. Two were classified as pitbull terriers and the third as a pitbull crossbreed.

When prohibited breeds are impounded, he said, the DoA is required by law not to “sell or exchange such a dog.”

“This includes placing a dog for adoption, which would be gifting the dog,” said Mr. Crichlow. “Doing so would place the Department in violation of the Law. Accordingly in such instances euthanasia is the only option open to the Department.